Monday, September 12, 2005

40 Year Old Virgin, The

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell, The Office, Bruce Almighty) works in the back room of an electronics store. He lives quietly at home, alone, collecting collectibles, playing video games, watching Survivor with his neighbors, and riding his bike to work.


One day the guys at the store invite him to a poker game. When the talk and bragging turns to chicks and babes, Andy tries to keep up but cannot because he has no experience. He’s a virgin. So four of the guys decide to help him get laid. Meanwhile, the woman who runs a shop across the street, Trish (Catherine Keener), meets Andy in the store and gives him her phone number.


Rather than funny, The 40 Year Old Virgin is extremely skummy because of the language. I thought My Cousin Vinny (a film I like a lot) held the Olympic record for the f word, but this is it and worse. The thing is, the guys, Andy “friends”, are externalizing their own insecurity and angst about women and sexuality via language. They have no imagination, act like idiots, and are immature. These guys, David (Paul Rudd), Ray (Romany Malco) and Cal (Seth Rogen) think they are mature because they have had so much sex, and by the end they realize they don’t have anything. (Which is a good thing to realize...)


I didn't think the film was funny except for when they waxed Andy’s chest. It doesn't really teach kids (who are seeing this even if you think they aren’t; at the very least they are talking about it) to wait until marriage (which Andy and Trish do) but to respect people who do want to wait to have sex after marriage - a choice among choices. In effect, the film is nihilism (that underpins so much of modern American morality) parading as comedy. However, if you can get beyond the foulness, the film does show the downside of not waiting and what it does to relationships. So maybe it has one redeeming quality.


I was disappointed that the filmmakers chose to make the film culturally diverse by using Indian actors (Shelly Malil; Gerry Bednob) in the cast and then portray them as low as everyone else.


You can bet kids are seeing The 40 Year Old Virgin despite the R-rating. Smart parents will find a way to talk about the film in sublte ways because the film's presence is pervasive. Some issues: the benefits of waiting to have sex until after marriage and explain the beauty of chastity - and why chastity is the physically and spiritually healthy choice. (Do your kids even know what the word “chastity” means? I have discovered when talking with teens that many have never even heard of the word.) Use the film as an opportunity to talk about this important subject. The DVD will be out in about twelve weeks, so yes, they will see it at their friend’s house.


I thought the scene at the birth control clinic about other options for sexual pleasure instead of intercourse was poorly done, even though this is where Andy finally admits to Trish's 16 year old daughter - and the group - that he's a virgin. (He has his own immaturity issues.) But of course, if the characters are smoking pot and drinking to fill their spare time, what more would you expect?


The characters talk dirty because they can, not because they have brains. Although Andy is endearing and sweet, it's not
enough to save this picture with its lazy and unimaginative writing. The premise is all about guys - and doesn't seem to respect women. Men who don’t respect women don’t respect themselves, either - and we see this in the film. All of the women have too many hormones, just like the guys. And Trish shows she can get really hysterical - that lovely old Freudian cliche'.

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